Tuesday, February 2, 2016


Outdoors STEM: Build a Bridge

I was apprehensive about this project as it began, but the kids soon convinced me it was worth all of our time and the effort they were giving it.

If I had thought about it at all, I would have realized that it combined some of the subjects I am most passionate about: outdoor play, child-led education, science, problem solving, engineering, and math!  But, I'm afraid the first thing that I thought of when my kids started this project on their own was that there had to be an awful lot of germs in that murky water!

Building a bridge can be done in *so* many ways.  We drove a short distance to a beach near this ditch.  As we played in the sand, the kids were soon distracted by this ditch and they challenged themselves to build a bridge across it. They wanted to get across it, and they were going to find a way!  If you don't have access to a ditch like this, you can create your own "river" to build a bridge across.  It can be an actual tunnel-like hole with water in it or just a line in the dirt!  We also have a rock "river" in our yard with a real bridge going over it that our kids play on.  But, that's not the topic for today!

Today, I'm talking about letting your kids (or even challenging them) to build a real bridge outside.  It uses problem solving, scientific reasoning, and qualitative math to engineer a creation that they can actually use!  STEM activities are beautiful to watch unfold because you can practically see children's minds working as they solve problems:

The bridge project began when my son started taking piling rocks onto the edge of the ditch.  It only took a few minutes before he realized that he could build a bridge all the way across the water using rocks.

They piled up pretty fast.  This is wonderful "heavy work" for kids who have lots of energy or who need a sensory processing release.

He quickly recruited help from his sisters, and they had a very big pile of rocks at the edge of the ditch.

I love how they had to work together to move the"heavy" rocks that had a flatter top.  Projects that require teamwork help children learn ways to collaborate and cooperate.

Finally, the bridge was done!

It had to be crossed immediately!

We even came back a week later and it was still there!

Try building a bridge outdoors and watch all the STEM skills interact as your children use scientific reasoning to problem solve and find a way to cross their own bridges! On a bad-weather day, you can even try an indoor version where you cross blanket or pillow rivers!

Have your kiddos ever built a bridge?  I'd love to hear about it and see picures!

We are participating in the 28 Days of Hands-On STEM activities for Kids!  Check out the homepage to see a list of all the great STEM activities you can look forward to this month! 

Happy Educating, Carla
I may share at any of these parties!

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Unknown said...

Those are some big rocks! Good on you for letting them, there is so much to learn and experience from things like this. x

Anonymous said...

while fun, this is not a bridge.

The World is their Classroom said...

Great idea!!